At Evergreen Home Healthcare, we work with individuals who have a variety of physical disabilities, including multiple sclerosis (MS). This condition is little understood by the public, and researchers still don’t fully understand MS. That being said, an MS diagnosis is far from a death sentence. Many people who are diagnosed with multiple sclerosis go on to live for normal lifespans without becoming severely disabled. In honor of World MS Day, we would like to shed some light on the reality of this condition.
What is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?
Multiple sclerosis is a condition of the central nervous system. When a person has MS, their immune system attacks the protective sheath (myelin) that covers the nerve fibers. This causes issues with the communication between your brain and the rest of the body. As the disease progresses, the nerves can deteriorate or become permanently damaged.
Symptoms of MS
The symptoms of multiple sclerosis vary from person to person. It really depends on the amount of damage to the nerves and which nerves are impacted. Some symptoms that may manifest with MS include:
- Numbness/weakness in the limbs; this usually occurs on one side of the body at a time
- Loss of vision; this usually happens in one eye at a time and occurs with eye pain
- Double vision
- Pain or tingling in extremities
- Electric-shock sensations with specific neck movements
- Lack of coordination, difficulty with balance, and tremor
- Bowel and bladder difficulties
Course of MS
The majority of people with MS have a relapsing-remitting course. This means that there are new symptoms of the disease that appear for a period of days or weeks, or relapses into old symptoms. Then, they improve either partially or entirely and are followed by long periods of remission with no symptoms. It’s typical for body temperature increases to worsen symptoms, but this isn’t considered a relapse. About 60 percent of people with this course of MS eventually develop secondary-progressive MS, which involves a steady progression of symptoms, often without remission periods.
Causes of MS
The exact cause of multiple sclerosis is still unknown. It appears that there is a combination of genetic and environmental factors at play, but more research needs to be done.
Stats About MS
- Globally, 2.5 million people have multiple sclerosis.
- More than 400,000 Americans are living with MS.
- Women are at least twice as likely to develop MS.
- Multiple sclerosis is most common among people of Northern and Central European descent, but it occurs across all ethnic groups.
Common Misconceptions About MS
There are many misconceptions about MS that we would like to address here.
MYTH: MS is fatal.
As stated above, a multiple sclerosis diagnosis is not a death sentence. Life expectancy is normal or close to normal for the majority of people with this condition. While there is no cure for MS, there are plenty of treatments aimed at slowing the progression of the disease and addressing the symptoms. Having MS does not mean you can’t live a full, happy life for years to come.
MYTH: Multiple sclerosis manifests in the same way in everyone.
In fact, no two cases of MS are exactly alike. While some people only experience numbness in their limbs once, others become severely paralyzed. It’s difficult to predict the course of MS because it varies not only person to person, but within one person. Symptoms may be the same for years but then suddenly change.
MYTH: All people with MS need wheelchairs.
Because multiple sclerosis can be debilitating, there is a perception that everyone with MS will eventually need a wheelchair. In reality, most people with MS don’t need a wheelchair or any assistive devices to get around. Because treatments have improved and doctors are able to detect it earlier, the progression of the disease can often be slowed to the point where you don’t even know a person has MS when you look at them.
MYTH: Women with multiple sclerosis can’t have children.
Back in the 1950s, it was believed that women with MS shouldn’t have babies because pregnancy could make their symptoms worse. In reality, there is evidence that suggests that pregnancy could actually be a good thing for women with MS. A majority of pregnant women with MS go into remission during the third trimester, and there is more and more research that suggests that pregnancy may lower a woman’s risk of developing multiple sclerosis.
MYTH: Only the elderly get MS.
In reality, multiple sclerosis is not an aging disease. The majority of people are diagnosed between age 20 and 50. That being said, there have been children young as 2 diagnosed, as well as people in their 70s. It has nothing to do with getting older.
MYTH: Multiple sclerosis is genetic.
We don’t yet know the exact cause of MS, but we know that it is not solely genetic. It is an autoimmune disease. While genes seem to play a role, it is only one piece of the puzzle. While you are about 10 times more likely to get MS if you have a family member with it, other factors such as the environment have a clear role as well.
MYTH: People with MS can’t be physically active.
Back in the day, people with multiple sclerosis were discouraged from exercising. Now, research has proven that the potential risks of exercise are outweighed by the numerous benefits. The one exception is if the person with MS is having a relapse. However, exercise may help people with multiple sclerosis with many of their symptoms, including fatigue, depression, and bladder and bowel function. The important this is to stay hydrated and not over exercising, which can trigger symptoms.
Home Healthcare for MS in Fort Collins
At Evergreen Home Healthcare, we understand that every case of multiple sclerosis is different. While some people are able to live independently, others need in-home healthcare. If you or your loved one fall into the latter category, we would love to help. Please contact Evergreen Home Healthcare in Fort Collins today.